Vince Dhimos answered a question at Quora.
China is about to become the dominant economy on the planet over the next 10 years. At the same time, the USA will drop to 3rd. The numbers say so. Given that, why would the USA want to provoke a trade war?
Vince Dhimos, Editor-in-Chief at New Silk Strategies (2016-present)
Answered just now
Trump promised his voters to make America “great again” (although he forgot to say when it was great before, as I wondered here). The thing about America is that many people, especially conservatives, long for a time when they can be proud of their country, and the last election period was a time when many of them felt the overwhelming need to be great, or more correctly, to feel great – more so than be happy and prosperous. The very same phenomenon was observed in the Reagan years. The US had been through some rough times. Those days, Vietnam had been a major psychological letdown for some who believed that greatness in America can be achieved solely or primarily by military means. The national anthem mentions bombs bursting in air and the bomb is a security blanket to many Americans, who long to see their government bomb more, at last figuratively speaking. That is, they want to see the US in a position to push others around because they feel they have been pushed around. They blame it all on the globlists, but could not define globalism any more than they can define MAGA. They like sound bytes and greatness sounds, well, great to them. But sound bytes don’t solve problems.
This will all seem absolutely bonkers to most non-Americans, and you know what? It is. It is a form of collective insanity. Hyperpatriotism is imbibed with the mother’s milk in America and is further reinforced by the neocon Establishment. Therefore, since it is extrememly difficult to pick oneself up above the level of one’s surrounding culture, almost like picking oneself up by one’s own boot-strops, probably nothing can ever stop the US from continuing this trend of military worship (which goes hand in hand with the cult of Israel worship) and the expectation of being no.1. It will probably only be stopped once the US dollar drops below a certain level of usage in world trade settlements that strips the dollar of its global reserve status and denies the US the ability to keep waging useless senseless wars indefinitely and slap sanctions on people until the rest of the world dies of starvation.
So why a trade war? Trump is the consummate con man, and when he told people that China was eating their lunch, they believed him. In fact, the US-China relationship was benign, designed by Xi to be win-win, and disrupting it will cause untold pain. But in order to capture the votes of these mentally challenged people who desperately need the pacifier of national pride, he needed to create enemies: Obama, Hillary, Bush, Iran and now China (not that Hillary was no enemy because she was the ultimate Neocon warmonger).
It is all politics and has nothing whatsoever to do with economics, as evidenced by the fact that the trade wars have cost the tech stock market $1.1 trillion so far and have put most US soybean farmers out of business. But that does not bother Trump. Only one thing bothers him and that is the prospect of losing the next election. Now if he wanted to make the US richer, he could invest in the Chinese One-Belt One Road project, because that is a win-win, whereas the US Establishment is ideologically bound to the idea of being the sole and big winner. Yet the US has no answer to match the Belt and Road, just Steve Bannon’s neocolonial idea of stopping it. It is psychologically incapable of investing in a Chinese project even if it were to pay big dividends. Because the US, both the grassroots and the oligarchy, is stuck in a neo-colonial mindset from which there is no apparent escape. Obama, who was also controlled by the same Establishment, refused to join the Chinese Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) even though almost every single US ally joined the venture seeing the obvious gains from the biggest infrastructure project in history. His reasoning was based on the phony excuse that the AIIB did not offer “social safeguards.” In other words, it did not strongarm its lendees into celebrating cross dressers in the military and the like. Social change is the American way and this ideology is far more important to the elites than raising the poor out of poverty and restoring the disappearing middle class. So the US Establishment is incapable of investing in things that just make money and help people. The investment must be ideologically correct and must necessarily hurt the imagined adversary. The ideology differs slightly between, say, Steve Bannon and Chuck Schumer, but the net result is the same: China is hurt and that’s what counts.
Sadly, though, while Trump complains a lot about political correctness and his fans think he is non PC, they couldn’t be more wrong. He is every bit as politically correct as his political adversaries. His political correctness, however, is rightwing while the PC he opposes is the leftwing PC. It is all ideology, and ideology does not solve problems, it creates them. All political correctness is a mental strait jacket but the US public has not figured that out yet. Now in this Trump era, the zombies think only leftwing PC is a problem. Their strait jacket, however, is neither the Left nor the Right, it is their own minds wrapped in knots by a web of tangled sound bytes. So the reason for the trade war is politics, pure politics, and it seems to be hurting the stock market, with the tech stocks losing a trillion as I said above and the farmers losing their shirt. It is all about impressions, and the naive souls who support Trump actually believe that impoverishing the US is somehow helping restore what they see as lost sovereignty. In their eyes, the US is now freer because they’ve gotten the Chinese monkey off their back. But the real monkey on their back is, has been and always will be the Establishment that controls their own benumbed minds. Trump is at the very top of that Establishment, even though he purports to be a victim of the Deep State.
But Trump has no plan. He never does. As CEO of different companies acquired with other people’s money, he declared bankruptcy 6 times and lost nothing. He could be making the US his 7th bankruptcy and the rest of the world his 8th. If he stays true to pattern, then he will emerge unscathed and only his investors – his voters – will lose.
And yet, who can blame him? They asked for it. Or rather, they begged for it.